COMMENTARY | The ABC News “20 20″ special with Diane Sawyer that chronicled the struggle of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to regain her faculties after a brain injury as the result of a shooting in January was-for the most part-heart-warming and inspirational.
The documentary, which also contained the first public interview with Giffords since the shooting, was ruined by a gratuitous attack on tea party opponents of health care reform and on Sarah Palin toward the end of the one-hour special. A short segment showed Giffords confronting an angry crowd of constituents at a town hall meeting. Palin was shown briefly, as was the infamous cross hairs map.
The segment was shown without context or detail. As Giffords is deservedly a national heroine because of how far she has recovered, the segment gave the clear impression of tea partiers as an angry mob and Sarah Palin as the cause of the shooting.
ABC News and Sawyer committed journalistic malpractice by dredging up the old accusations without also showing evidence that debunked them. Palin and her map had nothing to do with Giffords’ shooting, as was implied in the segment. Jared Loughner, Giffords’ assailant, was an insane man who likely never heard of Palin and certainly was unaware of the cross hairs map. Yet ABC chose not to mention this.
Similarly, ABC missed a chance to note a certain irony in Rep. Giffords’ vote for health care reform, which many people have concluded would make health care more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Giffords has gotten the best health care available in the world, including many hours of physical and occupational therapy. Under Obamacare, this kind of treatment would be less likely to be available to Americans, even with the ability to pay.
It is too bad and rather sad that ABC choose to do this. The special was, for the most part, a great story of how Giffords has struggled from the brink of death, with the help of family, friends, and health care professionals, to achieve an unprecedented degree of recovery. Her love story with Mark Kelly, the shuttle astronaut, could well be the stuff of legends. It is too bad that the mainstream media had to take its partisan swipe, lending a discordant note to what otherwise was a beautiful story.